24 February 2012

The White House preference: ‘Talking for the sake of talking’

The more I listen to Barack Obama the more I get disillusioned about the man.  In the run up to the US Presidential Election informal polls of people from all over the world found him to be way ahead in popularity over his rivals, first Hillary Clinton and then John McCain.  Almost one year into his term, the man sounds more and more like his predecessors. He is redefining his identity and sounds nothing more nothing less than a common thug. 
“Our patience is not unlimited,” Obama told Iran recently, alluding to tougher economic sanctions if Iran does not take the necessary steps. “The United States will not continue to negotiate indefinitely, and we are prepared to move towards increased pressure,” he thundered, reiterating the strong arm foreign policy preference that has made the USA one of the most hated nations in the world.  He was referring to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Acting quite the school principal, Obama has put Iran ‘on notice’.  He charges Iran of ‘breaking rules that all nations must follow’.  The learned President of the USA cannot be ignorant of how his country has broken all rules and norms of decency throughout the long 20th Century and continues to do so in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But he doesn’t say a word about all this; instead he says ‘we’re committed to serious and meaningful engagement, but not interested in talking for the sake of taking’. 

To me, the bottom line is this: the whole discourse of non-proliferation is wrong.  Obama says that Iran should understand that developing nuclear weapons does not enhance that country’s security but undermines it.  Look who’s ‘talking for the sake of talking’!  No country that has nuclear weapons has a moral right to complain about other countries developing similar capacities. Obama should cut the crap and say it as it is: ‘We are not interested in the idea of a global community, we are only interested in securing resources and markets; we are a selfish people and even as we talk the talk of humanity, community, democracy etc., we do so only insofar as it serves our purposes.’

His predecessor, George W Bush invaded Iraq to look for weapons of mass destruction.  What was that?  Certainly not ‘talking for the sake of talking’.  That was ‘talking for the sake of safeguarding oil interests’.  Is Obama any different? No.  If he was, he would have pulled out from Iraq the day he became President.  

‘Talking for the sake of talking’ quite in contrast to Obama’s claim is in fact the A-Z of US Foreign Policy.  I am thinking right now of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State and one time opponent of Barack Obama who famously charged the latter of proposing ‘change (one) could Xerox’.  Obama retorted, ‘this is when we enter the season of silliness’.  All that is now in the past.  Clinton does a lot of Xeroxing and Obama is living it up in an unending season of silliness. 

Clinton, a few days ago, as President of the UN Security Council, made some utterly tendentious remarks on the subject of ‘Women, peace and security’.  This woman, who lied to the US voter about having got off a plane in Baghdad ‘under a hail of bullets’ and is blind to the crimes against humanity that her country has committed and continues to do so, flippantly said, ‘Rape has been used as a tactic of war in Sri Lanka’ (she named a couple of other countries too).

‘Tactic of war’ did she say?  Well, the lady is accusing the Government of Sri Lanka of having adopted and implemented a deliberate defence policy of systematically raping people as a key component of its strategy to defeat the LTTE.  Hillary is not saying that the Sri Lankan security forces stole some guavas from a garden in Puthukudiarippu.  He used the word ‘rape’. That’s a serious charge and one which demands elaboration and substantiation.  No one should be allowed to get away with that kind of frivolous charge, least of all a known liar from a country that has brought death and destruction to dozens of countries and is even now displacing innocent civilians by the hundreds on a daily basis and has set in motion processes that cause untold misery to hundreds of thousands of people, in particular women, children, elderly and the sick. 

Who raped whom, Clinton must tell us.  When did it happen?  Why was that charge not made earlier?  Why now? What kind of evidence has surfaced now to warrant this charge?  What is the ‘systematic’ in the alleged incidents that justify the charge, ‘rape as a tactic of war’? 

Patricia Butenis, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka in a poverty-stricken damage-control exercise, offered that Clinton did not name any person but made a general comment. 

Well, what would Butenis say to a ‘general comment’ about rape and deliberate actions of sexual humiliation committed by US military personnel in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and who knows where else?  Would she let it pass, if for example, Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN talked of war crimes and inter alia mentioned the United States of America among other ‘rogue states’? 

It’s all talking for the sake of talking, isn’t it?  We are yet to hear the United States of America doing something about having broken and continuing to break rules that most nations follow.  Obama doesn’t want to see photographic evidence of torture and rape perpetrated by his troops. Hillary might want us to believe that the US Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan to dig wells, clean drains and construct toilets.  Butenis will not respond to questions that make her uncomfortable.  None of the three are willing to admit that the Global Thug days of the USA are coming to an end. 

Obama, Clinton and Butenis need to understand that talking the talk but not walking the walk does not win any admirers.  It is even worse to get others to walk one’s talk while one twiddles thumbs and passes judgment. 

Just after 9/11 happened, most Sri Lankans I spoke to expressed shock and sympathy for the victims.  Most of them after doing so, paused for a while, and mouthed the invariable ‘but’, followed by ‘the USA deserved it’.  I am fairly certain that such sentiments were not limited to Sri Lankans.  There is a reason for this and the Obama administration is not doing anything to change the mindset that utters such sentiments.  Indeed people like Robert O Blake have only hardened the genera anti-US sentiment among a lot of people.  Hillary is not helping either and as for Patricia, a willing approver (by designation), there’s very little she can do. 

Few liked George W. Bush.  Obama was supposed to be different.  He is doing his best to prove that he is not.  I feel for all those citizens of the USA who believed in his ‘change’ message.  The truth is, friends, ‘he can’t’.  Sorry, it’s not about ‘yes we can’ any more; it is about ‘no we won’t’ (change). 

That’s of course something the people in that country will have to think about. As for us, in Sri Lanka, we need answers from Hillary. She won’t give any.  We will have to ask her representative in Sri Lanka.  Ms. Patricia Butenis, we need another, more elaborate statement from you.  If you choose silence then we will have no option but to conclude: ‘guilty as charged!’  Sorry.  It’s just us, doing something more than ‘talking for the sake of talking’, I am sure you will understand.

[first published in 'The Nation', October 3, 2009]


Anonymous said...

Hillary Clinton has the nerve to call China and Russia "Despicable" for vetoing the UN Resolution condemning Syria. She ignorantly paints the picture as if the whole of Syria are rebelling against Assad. Some time ago there was a justifiable UN Resolution condemning Israel for their atrocious actions in Gaza and guess who vetoed that - USA, but nobody called them "Despicable" or anything. Incidentally USA has never voted for any Resolutions that censure Israel and there has been many. The best they have done is abstain.

Anonymous said...

How strange ..... Right mow I'm also thinking of Hillary Clinton..